Commence the Ownage: Sixers Rout Suns in Phoenix

Commence the Ownage: Sixers Rout Suns in Phoenix

You know what's fun? Winning by a lot against a bad team. Good of the
Sixers to remember this in advance of their game tonight against the
Phoenix Suns, who left little doubt that they are, in fact, one of the
league's bad teams now. After playing the Suns tight for about a
quarter, our second unit started to pull away in the beginning of the
second, and by halftime the game was already a laugher. The benches were
pretty much emptied by the fourth (Craig Brackins! Still no Marreese
Speights though, sadface) and the Sixers cruised to an easy 103-83
victory, bringing them to 1-1 for the season.

Watching the away broadcast on League Pass, the Suns' announcers spent a
long time harping on the Sixers' balanced offensive attack, and tonight
the fixation really was deserved. Despite breaking the century mark in
scoring, no one on the Liberty Ballers scored more than 15—Andre
Iguodala, Thaddeus Young and Jrue Holiday tied for the lead with that
tally—while three other players also broke double-digits, including Lou
Williams (13), Jodie Meeks and Evan Turner (12 each). It was the kind of
team ball we grew accustomed to seeing from the boys last year, and the
kind that should bode well for the Sixers' consistently over this crazy
strike-shortened season.

As predicted, Thad and Evan were big factors off the bench. The former
was distressingly off on his jumper—the part of his game he needs to add
to become a true offensive force in this league—but displayed his
typical wizardry around the basket, absolutely shredding Philly native
Hakim Warrick on one particularly shaming dunk. Meanwhile, Evan showed
that his mid-range game has become a fairly reliable weapon in his
second year, with that little ten-foot floater he's been showing off
recently starting to look something like a trademark move. He went 6-9
with seven rebounds, no assists but no turnovers either, picking up his
Phoenix-plaguing ways from where he left off last season.

And while Spencer Hawes didn't have quite the game he had on Monday—only
three assists this time, with four turnovers—he continued to show an
improved scoring touch (nine points on 4-7 shooting) and was again a
force on the glass, notching 11 boards in just 26 minutes of game
action. With Hawes' improved play and Nikola Vucevic looking decent off
the bench in his first NBA action (6 points on 3-6 shooting, a couple
boneheaded turnovers but some nice extra passes and good instincts in
the pick-and-roll), perhaps the center position won't be as much of a
black hole for the Sixers this year as we had feared. (Perhaps.)

Now, as we rejoice in celebration of the fine evening for the Sixers, we
should also take a moment to observe the sad state of affairs for the
Phoenix Suns in 2011-'12. After spending the better part of the decade
as the league's most innovative, entertaining team, it appears that this
is the end of the line for the Seven Seconds or Less Suns. All the key
players of yesteryear have been replaced with mediocre role players like
Channing Frye, Josh Childress and Ronnie Price, and the last remaining
holdout from the glory years, the inimitable Steve Nash, may finally be
seeing the downslope of his career. Tonight was the worst night of
basketball I've ever seen the Hall of Fame point guard have—four points
on 2-11 shooting, with one assist (!!!) and six turnovers, and not a
single memorable play the entire night. It's hard to say if Nash is just
going through the motions in a rebuilding year or if the guys around
him just suck that much, but it's a depressing sight for any NBA fan to
see the two-time MVP languishing like this.

But still, this is a Philly sports blog, and from a Philly standpoint,
tonight was a rip-roaring success. The Ballers head to Utah next for a
Friday night game, against another franchise in a state of flux. With
tonight's win bringing Coach Collins' record in Philadelphia back to a
42-42 state of stasis, it'd be nice to pick up the W in Salt Lake and
officially make Dougie's tenure in the City of Brother Love a winning
one. At the very least, it's nice to not have to wait until Game Five to
see the Sixers get a win this year.

Nerlens Noel to get one-on-one experience while Sixers on road

Nerlens Noel to get one-on-one experience while Sixers on road

Being immersed in the team is important for Nerlens Noel, and so is continuing his rehab. 

While the Sixers are on the road for three days to play the Grizzlies and Pelicans, Noel will remain in Philadelphia to work out at the training complex in Camden, New Jersey. The team is not scheduled to practice in between games, so staying back allows Noel another day to get on the court.

“[I want him to] just start playing more and have a ball in his hands, get hit, physical, feel people, play one-on-one,” head coach Brett Brown said.

Noel has yet to play this season because of elective arthroscopic left knee surgery in October. He rejoined the Sixers after completing the first phase of his rehab in Birmingham, Alabama. There still is no timetable for his return. 

Brown has said there is a “classroom” element to Noel’s return. He has to learn a roster with new players and schemes. 

The on-the-court side of it is a reacclimation to the intensity of the league. Regardless of how many games Noel already has played in the NBA, there is an adjustment period getting back into the grind of the competition. Brown believes the time in the gym this week will help Noel prepare for the level of intensity he will face in his return. 

“It’s such fool’s gold to think somebody’s going to jump back into NBA basketball after you haven’t played for so long. I don’t care how athletic he is,” Brown said. “It’s a man’s world, this league, and there’s a physicality and there’s a real-time reaction you have to have to play in the game. You can’t make that up in practice, you can’t make that up playing one-on-one, but you can better position him instead of just going out to get shots. I want him to feel a body, get hit, hit back, play one-on-one, those types of things.”

Noel had been assigned to the Sixers’ Development League affiliate, the Delaware 87ers, to get in practice time when the Sixers had a game. The Sixers may forego another assignment and keep Noel at their facility as the Sevens also have two games in the next three days. 

Joel Embiid finally struggles in Sixers' loss to Nuggets

Joel Embiid finally struggles in Sixers' loss to Nuggets

BOX SCORE

Joel Embiid has been making the NBA look easy. Rookie of the Month honors, five double-doubles in 13 games, seven performances of 20 points or more … all having missed the last two years rehabbing from foot injuries.

Embiid, though, still is a player learning the league. Night’s like Monday’s lackluster showing are going to happen, even if it seemed unexpected against the struggling Denver Nuggets. 

“We’ve been used to seeing Jo have superhuman nights,” Brett Brown said after the Sixers’ 106-98 loss (see Instant Replay). “I thought Joel was down tonight.” 

Embiid tallied a total 16 points (5 for 15 from the field, 1 for 3 from three, 5 for 6 from the line) with four rebounds, one assist, a career-high five blocks, three turnovers and three fouls in 25:32. 

He had a quiet first half with six points (2 for 5 from the field) and one rebound in 9:21. The biggest struggle came in the third quarter. Embiid scored a single point off a free throw and shot 0 for 6 from the floor. By the end of three, he was shooting 18.2 percent. 

The big man said he needed to be better at passing out of the double team. He committed two turnovers in the third. 

“I wasn’t getting to my spot and I wasn’t getting what I’m used to getting,” Embiid said of the first three quarters. “I’m going to go back and watch the tape and see what I did wrong.” 

Embiid bounced back for another Embiid-like offensive effort in the fourth. He dropped nine points off an efficient 3 for 4 shooting in 7:31. Still, it wasn’t enough. 

“I made a couple shots,” Embiid said. “It didn’t help us win, so I don’t think it matters.”

Brown noticed Embiid rushing his game. He also thought Embiid’s balance was off, something the big man has been dealing with all season as he continues to find his legs. 

Embiid will not play in Tuesday's game against the Grizzlies. It is part of his workload management in which he does not play both games of a back-to-back. Expect him to hone in on game film until his next matchup, and get back on the roller coaster that can be a first year in the NBA. 

“It's just part of a young man's growth,” Brown said. “It just happens. I don't think we need to read too deeply into it. I think, in many ways, to expect from time to time not as good of a performance as we have been used to is fair enough.”